UR is the only college in the United States to adopt a weed as its official emblem. Due to the abundance of the dandelion flower, the university officially established “dandelion yellow” as the school color in 1893. For years, the dandelion has adorned UR souvenirs, been designed into the architecture of buildings on campus and even flourished as the name of a student magazine in the 1930s and 40s. But as every UR student knows, the most beloved incorporation of the flower into university life is the day that bears its name- Dandelion Day.

The BeginningFor many years, the spring semester at UR was marked by annual traditional events such as the freshman-sophomore tug-of-war, the Male Dandelion Dinner and the Inter-Fraternity song contest. In 1951, Campus Chairman of Traditions and senior Donald Parry came up with the idea to combine all of these events into one day, and proposed it to Dean Lester Wilder. Wilder was enthusiastic about the idea and scheduled the first Dandelion Day for the first Wednesday in May in 1951. Although Wilder was not able to cancel classes that first year, professors did not administer exams and the idea of Dandelion Day was warmly received by the faculty. The first D-Day was only open to male students and included a variety of athletic events, the Dandelion Dinner and an awards ceremony. Parry, who worked at the university as Coordinator of Special Events until 1995, described the day to be “relaxing and rewarding.” In 1954, D-Day was opened to women.

1960sAs time passed, a date for D-Day was no longer set, and students were surprised by the cancellation of classes on a nice day in May. Although unannounced, D-Day was still primarily a field day. The giant tug of war in Genesee Valley Park was by far the most anticipated event, along with football games and relay races. The celebration continued into the evening with a Dandelion Dance in the Palestra.

1970sAfter 20 years, D-Day slowly began to transform from a field day into a carnival. The celebration was also extended, scheduled for an entire weekend towards the end of the second semester. D-Day was now considered somewhat of a “lazy day,” and students enjoyed carnival rides and food on the Wilson Commons quadrangle and Dandelion Square, as they do today. Perhaps the biggest attraction during this time was the Genesee Beer truck, which came to campus nightly, but distributed beer for free throughout the celebration. Another beloved tradition was the D-Day car bash, usually sponsored by one or more fraternities.

Students looked forward to the arrival of the Genesee Beer truck, which came to campus every night. On D-Day, the beer was free.

1980s When the New York State legal drinking age was changed from 18 to 21, the Genesee Beer truck stopped coming to campus, but drinking was slowly becoming the main activity of the day. By the mid-1980s, the D-Day celebration had become so popular that “Newsweek” ranked it as one of the nation’s top fifteen college parties, along with the Syracuse wing-eating contest and the MIT Steer Roost. According to “Newsweek,” D-Day includes “the sort of silly games you might expect on a day dedicated to a weed.”

1990sIn the past decade, the most noticeable change in D-Day celebration has been the amount of drinking. In light of three tragedies that left students injured and arrested in 1990, 1991 and 1993, the administration made several moves to focus on the educational aspects of alcohol use. Open containers were banned, and information about alcohol abuse was distributed to students prior to D-Day. In 1995, Resident Advisors began to take one-hour shifts on D-Day, in a role that Director of Residential Life Logan Hazen described in the April 6, 1995 Campus Times as “serving as the eyes and ears” for misconduct as well as safety.

TodayAlthough much controversy currently exists as to whether or not D-Day should be an official UR event, the day remains highly anticipated by students and would most likely be celebrated whether or not the event was officially on the calendar. The day continues to be marked by a concert, carnival rides, free food and drinking. The tradition is so beloved that alumni around the country have their own D-Day celebrations, most notably the “Pub Crawl” sponsored by the New York City alumni council.

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